TheatreTween time takes offKen Longworth

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THE NEXT STEP: The live stage version of the popular Canadian series will be in Newcastle next month.THE popularity of the Canadian television show The Next Step with Australian viewers was shown last year when a tour of a 90-minute live stage version featuring 10 of the cast members sold out long before the trek to five state capitals took place.

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A second tour begins in April, with more cities included. Newcastle’s Civic Theatre will host the show on April 13.The Next Step is a tongue-in-cheek send-up of live reality shows, centred on teenage dance students as they navigate life, love, rehearsals and competitions. While the show, which premiered in 2013, is aimed at tweens, it has won a following among adults, and is into its fifth season.Most of the performers are dancers who have developed acting skills in their time with the show. The 90-minute stage show features solos, duets, trios and group numbers, with choreography bytwo cast members, Jordan Clark and Trevor Tordjman. The other cast members on the tour are Brittany Raymond, Victoria Baldesarra, Lamar Johnson, Isaac Lupien, Myles Erlick, Briar Nolet, Isaiah Peck and Shelby Bain.The show is at the Civic Theatre on April 13 at 6.30pm. Tickets: $71.30 to $86.60. Bookings: 4929 1977.

On cueWEA Hunter’s 2017 Diploma of Musical Theatre students will do their first public performance together in On Cue, a collection of numbers from classical and contemporary Broadway musicals that will include dance as well as song. On Cue is at the Civic Playhouse on Friday, March 31, at 7pm. The performers are Kimberley Dingle, Sarah Graham, Cassie Hamilton, Nina Herron, Christopher Shanko, Jade Shearman, Prue Stark, Jack Twelvetree and Andrew Wu. Tickets: $15.30. Bookings: 4929 1977.

Sacred ritesHUNTER Singers will present the first concert in their three-show 2017 subscription series at Adamstown Uniting Church on Sunday, April 2, at 2pm. The program, Sacred Rites, will feature sacred music from around the world, including works by J.S. Bach and John Leavitt, as well as Australian composers. Special guests will be new group, Quintus, comprising local singers Paul Bevan, Paul Morris, Paul Tenorio, Chris Allan and Peter Guy. Tickets are $25, concession $20, school-age children $10. Bookings: trybooking广州桑拿.

Sing AlongADAMSTOWN Uniting Church is also the venue for the year’s first Sing Along to the Shows in its Dungeon performance space on April 8 at 2pm. The show, Around the World, will feature songs that mention places including Ipanema, Paris, London, Rioand Australia. There will also be a celebration of Dame Vera Lynn’s recent 100th birthday. Entry is $10.

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Theatre Review Lord of the Flies

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THEATRE REVIEWLord of the FliesHunter Drama, at Hamilton Public School HallEnded SaturdayDIRECTOR Charlotte De Wit’s decision to use an all-female cast in Nigel Williams’ stage adaptation of William Golding’s story about schoolboys trying to survive after their plane crashes on a desert island showed how universal its characters and situations are.

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And while plans to stage the production outdoors in Blackbutt Reserve were shelved a couple of days before opening because of forecast wet weather, the presentation in a theatrical hall had the opening night audience watching intently through its 95-minute running time, with the actors and production team making good use of different levels and spaces bedecked with trees and plants to create the various island settings.

Onlookers were gripped from the opening moments, as the girls appeared singly and in groups, with the different school uniforms indicating the individuality that came through when they got together. The two girls who became leaders of incompatible teams, Alexandra Jensen’s Ralph and Isabelle Clements’ Jack, showed their natures from the outset, with Ralph putting forward the need to start and maintain a fire that would be visible from a rescue ship, and Jack being more intent on hunting for wild animals such as pigs. Jack’s bullying of Piggy (Evie Lawrence), a nervous girl wearing glasses, foreshadowed her later more vicious behaviour. The other eight actors – Kate Wooden, Matilda Dickinson, Ruby McNamara, Hannah Hickey, Jessica Morgan, Indigo Howland, Lucy Johnson and Bella Sykes – likewise brought out the very different natures of the survivors. Wooden’s Simon, for example, had a secret place in the jungle where she could relax, while Dickinson’s Roger, initially a loner, showed an increasingly violent streak as she became Jack’s second-in-command.

Lighting was used well to create the brightness of the fire and the darkness that descended onto the island. The changing nature of the clothes, with the different school costumes being discarded by most of the students and replaced by more drab and increasingly dirty wear, showed the passing of time. The appearance of blood on skins and clothes likewise made evident the growing desperation and barbarity of the girls, as they killed more animals and fought among themselves.

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‘You are doing what ISIS wants’: Malcolm Turnbull and ministers slam Hanson over Muslim ban

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his ministers have slammed One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s proposal of a so-called “Muslim ban” in the wake of the London terror attack, arguing her policy is dangerous and would worsen the impact of terrorism.

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In a provocative video published hours after the London attack, in which four people died, Senator Hanson noted the hashtag #PrayForLondon, which was being used to express sympathy around the world.

“I have my own hashtag … it’s #Pray4MuslimBan,” she said.” That is how you solve the problem. Put a ban on it and then let’s deal with the issues here.”

Her office clarified she was advocating One Nation’s existing policies on Islam – such as a ban on Muslim immigration and an inquiry into whether Islam is a religion or political ideology – not prohibition of the practise of Islam.

Mr Turnbull on Friday launched his most severe criticism of Senator Hanson to date, arguing her policies were dangerous and would only incite hatred of Muslims, which was the goal of terrorist groups such as Islamic State.

“If the problem is terrorism, policies like that would only make it worse,” he told 3AW radio. “The object of the terrorist, the Islamist terrorist, is to get the broader society to turn on Muslims at large.

“Their recruiting message to Muslims and Australian Muslims is to say ‘this country doesn’t really want you, you’re not really Australian, they all hate you’.

“Inciting hatred against any part of the Australian community is always dangerous. It undermines the mutual respect that we have in our community.

“If you seek to attribute to all Australian Muslims or all Muslims responsibility for the crimes of ISIL [Islamic State in the Levant], then you are doing what ISIL wants. That is the classic strategy of the terrorist and it has been forever.”

Mr Turnbull said he had raised these points directly with Senator Hanson on previous occasions. He also noted the perpetrator of the crime in London was born in Britain, rather than migrating there from the Middle East.

The man was identified by police as 52-year-old Khalid Masood, who was born in Kent, had a criminal record and had previously been investigated by British spy agencies for violent extremism.

The Prime Minister was joined in his condemnation of Senator Hanson by cabinet colleagues Christopher Pyne and Scott Morrison.

Mr Pyne told Channel Seven’s Sunrise the video was counter-productive because public attacks on Muslims led to less co-operation with authorities from Muslim communities.

“The agencies tell us that when there are attacks on Muslims as a group … it stops the information flowing to the government and to the agencies,” he said.

“We’re not about to deport Australian citizens who are Muslims because of any kind of xenophobic campaign … they are as Australian as anyone else.”

Mr Morrison labelled Senator Hanson’s comments “reckless and irresponsible”, and said the occasion called for diligent security work, rather than “knee-jerk responses”.

“That’s not a time to be pursuing political agendas, it’s a time for focusing on keeping Australians safe, and ensuring that all Australians – every single Australian, regardless of your race, your ethnicity, your background, your religion – is safe,” he told Sky News.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the Liberal Party should put One Nation last on how to vote cards.

“If Malcolm Turnbull thinks One Nation is helping ISIS, he should stop helping One Nation get elected,” Mr Shorten said.

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Banned Bombers come back into new world order

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The start to any new AFL season will be marked by most clubs unveiling at least a couple of new faces. Occasionally, there’ll be the return of a long-term injury casualty. But never has a club had close to half a team come back to the fold after a year away from the game.

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That’s the extraordinary position in which Essendon find themselves on Saturday night going into the opening of the 2017 season against Hawthorn at the MCG.

It’s a big occasion for the Bombers, the impossible weight of the supplements scandal finally lifted after four hellish years. But a lot has changed even in the 18-odd months since the 10 players remaining at the club who were suspended by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last took the field for premiership points. iFrameResize({resizedCallback : function(messageData){}},’#pez_iframe_afl_video’);

The group includes veteran Jobe Watson who, in his last game for Essendon, was captain and a Brownlow medallist, and now in his next is neither, with his successor as skipper another of that group, Dyson Heppell.

There’s ruckman Tom Bellchambers who, in his absence, has been superseded as the No.1 man by former Brisbane Lion Matthew Leuenberger. And All-Australian defender Cale Hooker, whose temporary pinch-hitting as a forward in his last outings seems to have become a permanent shift.

And there’s no fewer than seven midfielders, nearly all a regular part of Essendon’s best 22 in 2015, but who return to find far more competition for a spot in the mix.

As the Bombers not only covered the gaping holes left by the CAS suspensions last year but looked to rebuild for the future under John Worsfold, the wheels of change kept spinning.

Zach Merrett, in 2015 still only a promising youngster, became in 2016 an elite midfielder, a best-and-fairest winner, and in 2017 is also a vice-captain. Draftee Darcy Parish fitted immediately into the midfield mix, and is an integral part of the engine room.

Orazio Fantasia and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti emerged as excitement machines up forward, an area in which Essendon have long struggled. And two more supposed “top-ups” – James Kelly and Matt Dea – acquitted themselves so well they remain part of the mix.

It’s a world away from the Essendon of which the 10 returnees were last a part. Just how do they fit in to the new Bomber order? Let’s take a look on a case-by-case basis.

TOM BELLCHAMBERS

Including last year’s suspension, the big ruckman has played just 18 games in three years, also beset by ankle, foot and more recently a knee injury, from which he returned in a VFL practice game only last weekend. Definitely behind Leuenberger in the queue for No.1 ruck spot, though he, too, is injured. Coach John Worsfold isn’t opposed to playing both now the Dons have some nippy little men up forward, but that’s currently a moot point in a position where Essendon now look the thinnest.

TRAVIS COLYER

Was in career-best form midway through 2015 when a foot injury ended his season. Returns with perhaps even more responsibility. “Trav has had a crack in at the centre bounces on a few occasions in the pre-season and it’s worked pretty well for us,” says Essendon football manager Rob Kerr. Colyer will spend time on a wing and could also have spells up forward. He and small forwards Josh Green and Fantasia are likely to take turns to act as centre-square “shock troopers” when more pace out of the middle is required.

DYSON HEPPELL

The new Bomber skipper might have less change to his role than any of the other returning players. Heppell, who led the Dons for clearances and contested ball in 2015, is still No.1 midfielder, though with the on-ball division now batting a lot deeper, Worsfold might have more flexibility with his captain than previous coach James Hird did. “He might get asked to play at half-back at different times and could find himself on a wing,” says Kerr. “We’ve got a few players in that category, and he’s one.”

HEATH HOCKING

The strongly built midfielder has played just five games since the end of 2014 after his 2015 season was ruined by a serious groin injury requiring surgery. In a deeper midfield, he’s no longer a walk-up start, but his capacity to run with opposition key on-ballers will earn him selection more often than not. “It’s a pretty good string to his bow that not everyone else has,” says Kerr.

CALE HOOKER

The former All-Australian defender was switched forward in the second half of 2015, averaging two goals a game. And with Joe Daniher still needing support up forward, it’s there Hooker will stay. “One will play higher pushing up the ground and one deep, so it will be fairly dynamic,” says Kerr. The Hooker-Daniher combination will involve some “learning as we go”, he says. “We haven’t seen a lot of these two together, and ‘Joey’ has had another good season under his belt since Cale played up forward.”

BEN HOWLETT

Of the 10 returning suspended players, it’s Howlett who might have to fight hardest to win a spot in the best 22. Once an automatic midfield pick because of his work ethic, Howlett, a good tackler, has more recently been used as a defensive forward. His problem is that with the emergence of Fantasia and McDonald-Tipungwuti, and recruitment of Green, the Dons have an army of small forwards. That might see Howlett squeezed out of not just one, but two parts of the preferred line-up.

MICHAEL HURLEY

The All-Australian centre half-back of 2015 was arguably the player Essendon was most anxious about re-committing to the club. Will be the undisputed general of the Bomber defence with Hooker playing forward, and fellow keys Michael Hartley, Patrick Ambrose and Mitch Brown very much support staff. Kerr says the Bombers will be looking for Hurley to provide effective rebound as well. “He’s a good kick, so we want him to do that as well as be someone who can quell a good opponent,” he says.

DAVID MYERS

None of the banned 10 have played as little as Myers. Injured in the opening minutes of the first game of 2015, he was injured again in his only other appearance, giving him effectively one half of football since the 2014 elimination final. A finger injury means he’ll miss at least the first month of this season, too. That said, fully fit, Myers is a walk-up start. “He’s an inside mid with a long, penetrating kick. He’s probably the one we’d be looking for to launch the ball into our forward 50,” says Kerr.

BRENT STANTON

After weighing up retirement, the 30-year-old was given a one-year deal by the Dons. Not everyone thinks he’ll be a regular with newer faces rotating through midfield. But the other side of the argument is that, relieved of the pressure of a weekly tag, with which he has sometimes struggled, Stanton can provide Essendon with his trademark endurance running from the luxury of a wing, or rebound off half-back, where he spent most of the pre-season.

JOBE WATSON

Now 32, the former skipper can’t be relied upon to carry the midfield. The good news is Essendon probably won’t need him to, thanks to the emergence of Zach Merrett and Parish. That means Watson looks set to spend more time than ever before up forward. “He can certainly take a grab and he’s got reasonable forward craft in terms of his leading,” says Kerr. Watson has only once kicked more than 16 goals in a season. That may change substantially in 2017. iFrameResize({resizedCallback : function(messageData){}},’#pez_iframe_afl_tiles’);

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University of Newcastle academic to speak at NSW Upper House inquiry into students with disability or special needs

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Dr David Roy. Picture: Max Mason-HubersUNIVERSITY of Newcastle academic David Roy is hoping theNSW Upper House inquiry into students with disability or special needs in schools will be remembered as a“watershed moment” for the sector.

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School of Education lecturer and advocate Mr Roy will be the first parent of a child with disabilities to speak at the inquiry’s first public hearing, atParliament Houseon March 27.

“It’s important the first people to be heard at the hearingare representatives from the Department of Education, the biggest providers of education for children with disabilities,” Dr Roy said.

“It’s very reassuring the next group parliamentarians will be hearing from directly is parents willing to speak up with real concerns.

“I hope it will be a watershed moment and children’s voices are heard. What I’m hearing from Canberra is this could act as a potential push for a Royal Commission into the education of children with a disability.”

Dr Roy said he was pleased at the number of submissions –260 – but concerned at the “disturbing number”of parents who asked for their names to be suppressed.

“Some of the Legislative Committee members have been readingunredacted submissions and are horrified,” he said. “Staff members are getting psychological support because they’re reading horrific stuff.”

He said schools needed cameras in classrooms to protect both teachers and students, independent bodies to investigate complaints,more training for teachers, greater consultation with families aboutneeds and more inclusion for students with disabilities. “Funding is important but Gonski will not solve this, weneed to change attitudes.”

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A-League: Now or never for Jets’ finals hopes|video

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BIG TEST: Jets fullback Jason Hoffman will have the job of keeping Phoenix danger man Kosta Barbarouses in check on Sunday. Picture: Getty ImagesNOW or never.That was the blunt message from coach Mark Jones as the Newcastle Jets headed across the Tasman to take on an under-manned Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.

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Jones, with eight games remaining and Newcastlesitting on the edge of the six, predicted the Jetswould need to win another three games to make the play-offs.

They have since lost 1-0 to Adelaide, drew 1-all with the Mariners and suffered defeats to Brisbane (3-1) and Melbourne City (4-0).

The upshot is that Wanderers, who smashed City 3-1 on Friday night, are nine points clear of the Jets in sixth place. However the Jets have played one less game.

“We had eight games and we had to win three of those,” Jones said.“Now we are down to four games. The percentages are lower, but we have a great opportunity here to put pressure on Western Sydney.It is certainly not done yet.”

The Jets host Wanderers next before road trips to Central Coast and Sydney FC.

Wanderers, who also have Asian Champions League commitments, play the Jets (away, Melbourne Victory (home) and Adelaide (a).

No surprise that coach Mark Jones says it’s now or never for @NewcastleJetsFC. pic.twitter广州桑拿/Tcnlp6KdUV

— James Gardiner (@JamesGardiner42) March 24, 2017

But the run home will be of little importance if the Jets don’t get the job done against Wellington.

Phoenix, who sit a point above the Jets, have lost seven players to international duty.

Andrew Durante, GlenMoss, Shane Smeltz, Michael McGlinchey, Thomas Doyle and Alex Rufer will line up for New Zealand againstFiji in a World Cup qualifier inLautoka on Saturday.Phoenix striker Roy Krishna will lead Fiji’sattack.

“The Mariners played them in similar circumstances and got beat 2-0,” Jones said.“Sometimes people who have been given an opportunityplay better. It is still to our advantage. We have to be confident that we can get a result.”

The Jets paid the price for missing an early opportunity to score against City.

“We had a run away early on and a couple of other opportunities in the first half where we could have gotten something from it,” Jones said. “Again, story of our season, we don’t take our chances.People say we keep saying that, but it’s a fact. You have to take your chances.”

Jones appears set tweak his attack.

“Everyone has had an opportunity and the nine and ten positions haven’t produced enough goals for us,” he said. “I thought Morten came on last weekend and made some excellent runs.We are looking for him or [Aleksandr] Kokko –it doesn’t matter who –to put the ball in the back of the net.”

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Cruising and perusing Sydney Harbour in style

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MV Sydney 2000 … three enclosed floors from which to enjoy the harbourIt’s as genuinely iconic as the Harbour Bridge, that great arched structure which crosses it, and the Opera House, which stands alongside it on Benelong Point.

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Yes, that right. Of course I’m talking about Sydney Harbour itself, quite rightly described as one of the world’s most beautiful waterways, the source of real-estate dreams, and the launching pad for a million lunches.

Of course, most people reckon that the harbour gives the best of itself on a bright, sunny day when its glistening water is packed with pleasure craft, or on a clear night when the lights of the city and suburbs shimmer their reflections.

But I reckon that it’s just as gorgeous and magnetic on an overcast day with the mist scudding in and a few white tops as you get near the Heads that protect it from the full force of the Pacific Ocean — especially if you’re sitting in a sturdy boat behind large, protecting windows, drinking your second or third glass of bubbly and enjoying a thoroughly decadent three-course meal.

And that’s exactly where we are — on board MV Sydney 2000, one of the largest vessels on Sydney Harbour and with three levels of seating, plus an upstairs observation deck.

It’s a clever arrangement, allowing separation of guests by floor — and a varied disembarkation schedule — according to what particular cruise package they have purchased. It seems to run like clockwork.

The staff are friendly and efficient, and we’re soon quaffing our first glass of bubbly. Drinks are normally served on a pay-as-you-go basis but we’ve purchased a drinks package that provides regular top-ups and offers good-value imbibing.

Sydney Harbour … a stunning place tovisit, regardless of the weather.

The menu offers a limited but adequate choice for most tastes, starting with smoked ocean trout (served with shaved fennel, dill, capers and a black-caviar dressing) or spinach-and-ricotta ravioli (with napolitana salsa and grana padano cheese).

The main courses the choice extends to Tasmanian grilled salmon fillet, beef tenderloin, and pumpkin-and-spinach-stuffed chicken breast, while for dessert there’s a choice between a Bavarian vanilla slice with strawberries and chocolate sauce, and slow-baked lemon-and-lime tart with a dollop of thickened cream.

All this is accompanied by the stunning vistas of Sydney Harbour, with a couple of stops to pick up and let off passengers on other packages. What a pleasantway to spend the afternoon — and a great way for visitors to Sydney really put it into perspective.

Plenty of Australian icons to admire from the deck, including the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House

And, yes, we do manage to get to the observation deck and take in some fresh air and a touch of spray.

Captain Cook Cruises runs a raft of Sydney Harbour cruises ranging from two-hour sightseeing cruises, through seafood buffet lunches and Captains dinners on the water, to our three-hour long-lunch cruise, and ultimately to a six-course degustation dinner cruise accompanied by premium Penfolds wines and live music.

There are also a number of special-occasion cruises, run for things such as Mother’s Day, New Year’s Eve and Vivid — Sydney’s premier festival of light, music and ideas.

Captain Cook Cruises, Wharf 6, Circular Quay or Pier 26, Darling Harbour or King St Wharf 1, Sydney

Phone 02 9206 1111 or 1800 804 843广州桑拿论坛captaincook广州桑拿广州桑拿论坛John Rozentals was a guest of Captain Cook Cruises.

John Rozentalsis a freelance writer whose passions aretravel, food and wine. He lives at Molong in the Central West of NSW, from where he hostsOz Baby Boomers, a lifestyle-resource for mature Australians, and Molong Online.

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‘Save Munmorah Power Station mural’

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HISTORY: Former power industry workers Rod Caldwell and Bob Porter in front of the ‘Munmorah Mural’, which they want to remove from the decommissioned power station and preserve. Picture: SuppliedA group of former power industryworkers are racingto save a historic mural in the Munmorah facility before it is demolished.

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The decommissioned power station is being dismantled in a massive demolition project that is due to be completed inthe second half of 2018. On Sunday, the power station’stwin chimney stacks, which are 155 metres high and are considereda landmark in southern Lake Macquarie, are scheduled to be toppled with a controlled explosion.

Yet a group called the Munmorah Reunion Committeeargue that a large mural in the administration building should be removed and preservedasa memorial.

Committee member Bob Porter, who worked at the power station for almost a quarter of a century, said the ‘Munmorah Mural’ was 9.1 metres long and 2.4 metres high andwas a stylised depiction of the power generation process, from the mining of the coal to the community using the electricity.

“For the people who worked at Munmorahor visited, it was the first thing they saw when they walked into the foyer,” Mr Porter said. “There’s a lot of history, a lot of nostalgia tied up with it.”

Constructed from more than800 hand-made ceramic tiles, the ‘Munmorah Mural’ wascreated by artist and architect Gino Volpato in 1966, as the power station was being built.

POWERFUL ART: Architect and artist Gino Volpato in front of the ‘Munmorah Mural’, which he created in 1966 for the power station’s foyer. Picture: Volpatohatz广州桑拿

Mr Porter and fellow former Electricity Commission employeeRod Caldwellsaid while there was no heritage listing forthe mural, there should be, as it held artistic, historicaland social significance.

“It is unique,” said Mr Caldwell, who is also a member of a group called Engineering Heritage Australia.

Mr Caldwell and Mr Porter said they had discussed the mural’s preservation with Steve Saladine, the managing director of Generator Property Management, the NSW Government business that owned Munmorah Power Station. They said Mr Saladine had promisedto preserve the mural until the end of the demolition process and would have it puton to a truck on the site.

Steve Saladine said to the Herald that he told the men that if they had someone who would take the mural for display and they were prepared to cover the cost of relocation and provided the truck, he would get the demolition contractor to remove it.

However, Mr Saladine said he had engaged experts to look at the mural and they had told him it was “almost impossible to remove it without damaging it”. The ceramic tiles, he was advised, had “deteriorated over time”.

Withthe power station’s demolition continuing, Mr Saladine said he was still looking at what to do about the mural and what was the best option. “At this point, I’ve made no judgement,” he said.

A potential home for the mural, RodCaldwell said, was the former Wangi Power Station. The state heritage-listed main building is empty, and the long-decommissioned power stationis in private hands.Mr Caldwell has written to Lloyd McDonald, a member of the family who owns the Wangi site, proposing to have the mural relocated there.

“The mural would be a spectacular feature in an entrance foyer of an accommodation block or shopping arcade,” Mr Caldwell wrote. “Such a display could be extended to include an interpretation centre for the coal fired power industry.”

GENERATOR: Munmorah Power Station, which operated from 1967 to 2012, with its distinctive chimney stacks that are due to be demolished on Sunday.

Lloyd McDonald told the Herald he supported the idea. “I reckon it would be fantastic to have a museum in there,” he said. “How good would it be to have some sort of history of power stations there? It seems logical.”

However, Mr McDonald said the building’s future use had not been determined yet. Further, with the building having been regularly vandalised and even set on fire recently, hesaid the mural could not be installedat the Wangi site in the short term.

“If you put it in there now, it would last a week,” he said. “As much as I’d love to see it there, we can’t have it yet. It would need to be stored somewhere.”

Mr Porter and Mr Caldwell said their committee waslooking at options for safely removing and storing the mural, and how to pay for that. They believed the State Government should help fund the mural’s future, considering what the artworkrepresented.

“We hope the government is sympathetic to its preservation,” Mr Porter said.

Mr Caldwell added: “It is the art of the engineer fuelling the state in such a successful way.”

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The tastes and sights of NSW Southern Highlands

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The main restaurant area at Centennial Vineyard … complete with delightful fireplace for winter comfort.When I first visited the NSW Southern Highlands as ‘serious traveller’ armed with a pen about a decade ago, I wrote that I had been quite surprised by the sophistication and quality of its dining-and-wining scene — and the diversity of its general tourism appeal.

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I guess I’ve been back nearly 10 times since and I still find plenty there to be surprised at, though I might even have become slightly blasé about the extremely high standards its travel industry sets for itself — and seems to achieve so easily.

My last visit included staying and dining at Peppers Craigieburn, a gracious more-than-century-old estate set among beautiful gardens and golf course on the outskirts of Bowral.

Peppers Craigieburn … a gracious more-than-century-old estate

To wander the charming public areas and hallways is to take a step back in time, and the suites are elegantly appointed, with many having direct access to the old mansion’s broad balconies.

Hickory’s Restaurant and Bar offers a small, but extremely well put together menu featuring a range of traditional dishes with a decidedly modern touch.

Among the starters is a serving of Mittagong tunnel mushrooms, an item featured of quite a few local menus.

Noel Arrold’s venture in a disused 1862 railway tunnel has grown into one of Australia’s major producers of exotic mushrooms, and is an integral part of the booming and exciting Southern Highlands food scene.

Less than kilometre up the road from Craigieburn is Centennial Vineyard, established by John Large some 15 years ago.

It’s one of the biggest and longest-established vineyard/winery operations in this decidedly cool and a now burgeoning region that is becoming increasingly well known for the quality of what it presents in the glass.

Winemaker Tony Cosgriff designed the winery and has basically been involved with the vineyard from its inception.

Spending a couple of hours with him to taste Centennial’s substantial range, made from a combination of estate-grown fruit and grapes, especially red, purchased from around Orange, another decidedly cool-climate area, is a pleasure that’s all too quickly over.

Picking a favourite wine from a quality line-up like Tony’s is difficult, but I kept going back to the 2014 Old Block Chardonnay, a complex dry white with lots of flavours in the stonefruit spectrum.

It’s the wine we’d had earlier with lunch in the well established restaurant, which, like many vineyard restaurants offers a quite stunning outlook.

And fortunately the food is certainly up to the location, beginning with a tasting slate of six daily items accompanied by a glass of bubbly — tasty morsels such as a creamy paté, cumin soup and bruschetta drizzled with the finest olive oil.

Main courses include merlot-braised beef cheek and an absolutely delicious serving of confit duck. Both are seriously recommended.

I’ve eaten at Centennial when the weather has demanded a table by the huge open fire, and on a terrific day when it’s definitely worth a window seat in the sunny side annex.

Craigieburn is set among splendid gardens

Either way, it’s something you should include on your Southern Highlands itinerary.

Not that the Southern Highlands is all about food and wine. Far from it.

There’s certainly plenty for nature lovers to do as well, including exploring nearby Morton National Park.

Even on a sullen, drizzly day, the short trek from the car park to Fitzroy Falls is worthwhile, with the swirling mist adding an eerie touch to the dripping foliage and offering tantalising glimpses of the falls and the chasm below.

The visitor centre at the Falls is an excellent one and provides not just ample evidence of the appeal of the huge park but also fascinating insights into the lives and work of the district’s pioneering conservationists — people such as Janet Cosh, after whom the herbarium at the University of Wollongong was named.

Peppers Craigieburn, Centennial Road, Bowral (phone 02 4862 2576, or visit http://广州桑拿论坛pepperscraigieburn广州桑拿广州桑拿论坛)

Centennial Vineyards, Centennial Road, Bowral (phone 02 4861 8722 for cellar door and 02 4861 8777 for restaurant, or visit http://广州桑拿论坛centennial.net广州桑拿论坛)

John Rozentals travelled as a guest of Peppers, Centennial Vineyard and Destination NSW.

John Rozentalsis a freelance writer whose passions aretravel, food and wine. He lives at Molong in the Central West of NSW, from where he hostsOz Baby Boomers, a lifestyle-resource for mature Australians, and Molong Online.

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Rogue One’s rewrites were much more extensive than first thought

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Rogue One’s rewrites were much more messy and extensive than first thought, with fans whipped into a frenzy over how the Star Wars universe could have been changed forever.

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Prior to Rogue One’s release, it was widely known the film’s ending was tweaked. Those whispers were confirmed when many fans left the cinema realising several key moments from the movie’s trailer didn’t make it into the final cut.

Now, thanks to several crew members doing the rounds to promote the movie’s digital debut, fans have learnt exactly what the original ending entailed – as well as the draft story arcs that could have altered the course of upcoming films.

Screenwriter Gary Whitta told Entertainment Weeklythat Rogue One originally had lead characters Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor survive the battle of Scarif.

“They got away in an escape pod just in time,” he said. “The pod looked like just another piece of debris.”

While Whitta and his team always had a gut feeling that both characters should die, they thought this would be too dark in the eys of Disney executives. But eventually they worked up the courage to change it.

“The fact that we had to jump through so many hoops to keep them alive was the writing gods telling us that if they were meant to live it wouldn’t be this difficult,” he said. “We decided they should die on the surface [of Scarif] and that was the way it ended.

“We were constantly trying to make all the pieces fit together. We tried every single idea. Eventually, through endless development you get through an evolutionary process where the best version rises to the top.”

It’s also been revealed that villain Director Krennic, played by Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn, was also meant to survive the Death Star’s deadly blast – only to be murdered by Darth Vader. But that, too, was changed.

Rogue One’s ending wasn’t the only part of the film to face dramatic changes before and during production. In earlier drafts of the film, Cassian Andor was meant to be a double-agent who ultimately sided with the Rebellion, while Jyn’s mother was meant to be a Jedi.

One early draft of the script even had Jyn and Cassian surviving by fleeing Scarif in a ship before freezing themselves in carbonite to avoid detection by Imperial scanners. This ending would have left open the possibility for the duo to crop up in later Star Wars films once their bodies were discovered.

Indeed, John Knoll – the special effects genuis behind Rogue One – has let slip that he has another idea for a Star Wars spinoff, according to Screen Rant.

But before you get too excited, it’s important to understand Disney definitely has its hands full with at least three new Star Wars films coming out over the next three years.

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